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Focht v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 5, 2014

DAVID FOCHT and NICOLE FOCHT, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE FARM FIRE & CASUALTY CO., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROBERT D. MARIANI, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Presently before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 30) filed by the Defendant in the above-captioned lawsuit. The Motion seeks summary judgment on Count II of Plaintiffs' Complaint, which alleges bad faith in the denial of certain insurance coverage after Plaintiffs sustained water damage to their home basement. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the Motion.

II. Statement of Facts

The Court finds that the following facts are undisputed upon a neutral reading of the record.

At all relevant times, Plaintiffs-husband and wife David and Nicole Focht-owned a homeowner's insurance policy for their home in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. ( See Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, Doc. 31, at ¶ 10.) "On or about September 7, 2011, Plaintiffs' home was damaged as a result of Hurricane Irene and/or Tropical Storm Lee." ( Id. at ¶ 12.) Plaintiff David Focht testified that at this time "a big flood hit the Pine Grove area" which caused "a disaster" with "a lot of flooding" and "constant rain." ( Id. at ¶ 13.)

After this storm, Plaintiffs observed damage to the exterior of their home as well as to the basement interior. ( Id. at ¶¶ 14, 16.) They reported this damage to their insurance carrier, Defendant State Farm Insurance. ( Id. at ¶ 18.) State Farm then sent a representative, nonparty Dennis O'Neil, to inspect Plaintiffs' damage. ( Id. ) "At this inspection, Mr. O'Neil inspected the exterior and interior of the home. Mr. O'Neil observed some damage to the exterior (fascia, gutters and paint off chimney) but did not see any visible damage to the upstairs, main level of the home." ( Id. at ¶ 19.) O'Neil also "observed water damage on the basement walls, from the floor level to about 1 feet [sic] up the walls." ( Id. at ¶ 21.)

At the inspection, O'Neil informed Plaintiffs that, while State Farm would pay for the exterior damage to the house, it would not cover the damage to the interior basement, because such damage was "flood damage" not covered by Plaintiffs' homeowner's insurance policy. ( Id. at ¶¶ 22-23.) The parties agree that the homeowner's policy is the only one applicable here and that Plaintiffs did not maintain flood insurance for their home. ( See id. at ¶ 26; see also Pls.' Mem. of Law. in Opp. to Mot. for Partial Summ. J., Doc. 33, at 10 ("If, in fact, it was flood' then the Fochts did not have the appropriate flood coverage.").) Subsequently, State Farm did indeed refuse coverage for the basement, citing the homeowner's policy, which provides as follows:

SECTION I - LOSSES NOT INSURED

2. We do not insure under any coverage for any loss which would not have occurred in the absence of one or more of the following excluded events. We do not insure for such loss regardless of: (a) the cause of the excluded event; or (b) other causes of the loss; or (c) whether other causes acted concurrently or in any sequence with the excluded event to produce the loss; or (d) whether the event occurs suddenly or gradually, involves isolated or widespread damage, arises from natural or external forces, or occurs as a result of any combination of these:
c. Water Damage, meaning:
(1) flood, surface water, waves, tidal water, tsunami, seiche, overflow of a body of water, or spray from any of these, all whether driven by wind or not;
(2) water or sewage from outside the residence premises plumbing system that enters through sewers or drains, or water which enters into and overflows from within a sump pump, sump pump well or any other system designed to remove subsurface water which is drained from the foundation area; or
(3) water below the surface of the ground, including water which exerts pressure on, or seeps or leaks through a building, sidewalk, driveway, ...

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